Meet Nightlife's Mr. Fix-It

Is there any hope of restoring the South Beach luster? Rudolf says yes.

But still there are questions about what Rudolf will actually put into these more intimate spaces. Only Jeffrey Sanker's Sunday-afternoon gay tea dances have consistently drawn a crowd to Billboardlive. Beyond that, Rudolf has aped the same tried-and-true formulas employed by the bulk of his competition: Local promoters have come and gone; the usual trance and breaks DJs have shuttled through. And while the addition of Club Space's brain trust (as it were) may augur well for Billboardlive's bottom line, poaching the glow-stick masses from the Miami club wouldn't exactly qualify as an exciting aesthetic development.

"One thing is my personal taste," Rudolf concedes. "The other is what the public wants." Unfortunately for both Rudolf and Beachgoers seeking some fresh culture, balancing that equation may be untenable. Case in point: Thursday night's Fuacata party, with the Spam Allstars' innovative fusion of funk grooves and hard-edged salsa regularly drawing an invigoratingly diverse throng to Little Havana's Hoy Como Ayer. Seeking to extend across the bay what is easily the city's best night out, Fuacata's hosts chose Wednesday nights to throw an identical shindig at Washington Avenue's Bash. Their Beach venture lasted all of two weeks. Citing friction with Bash's owner and a lackluster turnout, they and the Allstars hightailed it back to Calle Ocho.

So is it hopeless? Is there no middle ground on the Beach between the lowest-common-denominator dance floor and the VIP room? Nonsense, argues Rudolf. There are still plenty of folks looking for an alternative to both. He nods in admiration of Monday night's Back Door Bamby at crobar as well as the Friday turnout for Rain's house DJs. But he adds that anyone expecting him to rerun Danceteria's glory days doesn't understand the changing times.

Ageless: Rudolf Pieper as the Pied Piper of South Beach
Jennie Zeiner
Ageless: Rudolf Pieper as the Pied Piper of South Beach

"The notion of hipness is not underground anymore," he says. "When I was operating in Greenwich Village, the notion of hip was ignoring the media, ignoring the rich, being cool on a budget. That notion has changed. There is no more proletarian chic." He chuckles to himself and continues: "Ideologically, maybe I've been in Paris too long, but the end of the story of the revolution has not been told yet. We live in a lull like Metternich, like Europe in the 50 years after Napoleon. There are people who speak of capitalism's triumph as the end of history, but" -- he practically spits out the words -- "that is a bourgeois point of view."

Hold on a minute. Proletarian chic? Metternich? We're still talking about nightclubs, right? The business of entertaining people on South Beach?

Rudolf leans back and that now-familiar twinkle returns. "I always make the comparison to Hollywood, because there is a filmmaker in all of us," he explains. "Would I like to do French intellectual movies à la Jean-Luc Godard with a budget of $100,000 and worldwide revenues of only $1 million, or would I like to make the next Titanic? One should do both." He cites Bruce Willis, an actor who flips from mainstream blockbusters to more provocative fare such as Pulp Fiction.

Kulchur points over his shoulder to the looming presence of Billboardlive. So -- glug, glug, glug -- that's your Titanic?

Rudolf throws up his hands with a laugh: "Maybe this is not the best comparison."

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